McCarron grabs lead as Finals commence

Scott McCarron shot 8-under-par 64 on Thursday to grab a 1-stroke lead through the opening round of the inaugural Hotel Fitness Championship, the first event of the Tour Finals.

McCarron, a three-time PGA Tour winner, made it into the four-event finals on a special medical exemption, as he has been dealing with thumb and wrist injuries.

"It's been a long time since I played some good golf," said the 48-year-old. "But I still know how to. At least I haven't forgotten that part."

The finals consist the top 75 on the Tour money list and Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour's FedExCup points list, as well as some exemptions, competing for 25 PGA Tour cards.

Scott Harrington, Troy Matteson, Jason Gore and Bud Cauley all fired 7-under 65s at Sycamore Hills Golf Club to share second place, while Jeff Klauk and Arron Oberholser carded 66s to tie for sixth through 18 holes.

Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion, is one of eight players tied for eighth place at 5-under 67.

McCarron underwent surgery on his left wrist and thumb in October and played eight PGA Tour events this season on a medical exemption, missing seven cuts.

"It was a bad year to be on a medical," he said. "I knew what was going to happen to me this year, but there was nothing I could do. I had to have the surgery. I couldn't prolong it anymore."

He got off to an inconsistent start on Thursday, stumbling to a bogey at the 10th before holing out from a greenside bunker for birdie at the 11th (his second). He saved par at the 12th, thanks to a 25-foot putt from the fringe.

"My caddie looks at me and says, 'This is exciting!'" McCarron said. "This is only the third hole -- it hasn't even gotten exciting yet."

From there, McCarron rounded into form, reeling off an eagle and five birdies in a seven-hole stretch from the 15th to move atop the leaderboard at 7-under.

He bogeyed the fourth, but bounced back with a birdie at No. 5, then parred three straight before chipping to birdie range from a fairway bunker at the ninth and draining the putt to wrap up his opening 64.

"When I'm playing bad, I can never imagine playing good again. And when I'm playing good, I can never imagine playing bad. This is an amazing game," the first-round leader admitted afterward.

NOTES: The top 25 players on the Tour money list have already earned 2013-2014 PGA Tour cards. Those 25 golfers are playing for priority ranking. The other 25 PGA Tour cards will be handed out to the top cumulative money earners through the four-event finals ... McCarron carded his lowest round since the 2011 McGladrey Classic. His last PGA Tour win came at the 2001 BellSouth Classic.